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Five things to watch during Electoral College battle

The typically ceremonial process of Congress formally tallying the Electoral College votes on Wednesday will instead serve as a stress test of American democracy.

President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE’s push for congressional Republicans to try to overturn his election loss to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE is sure to fail, but not without a long, drawn-out brawl expected to last into the night or possibly Thursday.

Here are the top five things to watch during the proceedings that kick off Wednesday at 1 p.m. 

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How many Republicans will vote to challenge Biden’s victory? 

In the Senate, a majority of Republicans are expected to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE’s (R-Ky.) lead and not support challenging results of the Electoral College, although his leadership team isn’t whipping the votes. 

Thirteen Senate Republicans are expected to back some number of challenges.

But it’s another story in the House, where Republicans are hoping to erase Democrats’ historically thin majority in next year’s midterm elections and retake control by galvanizing Trump’s base. 

Upward of 100 House Republicans are expected to join the effort led by Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Trump to reemerge on political scene at CPAC MORE (R-Ala.) to overturn the results of the Electoral College. And in contrast to McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySome Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Wray says no evidence of 'antifa' involvement in Jan. 6 attack Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC MORE (R-Calif.) has signaled he backs the push.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRomney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MAGALand in Orlando Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' MORE (Wyo.) is the highest-ranking House Republican to oppose the Electoral College challenge, siding with conservatives like Reps. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoySome Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats House passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people GOP's Chip Roy vows to fight Equality Act in court MORE (Texas) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCan members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (Ky.) who are also frustrated with the fractures Trump is causing in his final days in office.

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“I think Trump’s diminishing his influence with this at the end. If he could have said, you know, 'We lost, we're going to keep our coalition together, we're going to come back stronger in four years whether I run for president or not, we're going to have influence.' But instead, it feels like he's just blowing up not the GOP but his own movement by putting them through this at the end,” Massie told reporters. 

In any case, both the House and Senate are expected to reject the challenges whether most Republicans join in the bipartisan majorities or not. 

Which states will Republicans challenge? 

At least one lawmaker from each chamber must object to a given state’s results in order to trigger up to two hours of debate and a vote. 

House Republicans are pushing to object to the Electoral College votes in six swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

But so far, Senate Republicans have only indicated plans to object to three states: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Senate confirms Biden Commerce secretary pick Gina Raimondo MORE (Texas) to Arizona, Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal Hawley presses Wray on use of geolocation data to track Capitol rioters GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' MORE (Mo.) to Pennsylvania and Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerKelly Loeffler's WNBA team sold after players' criticism Please, President Trump: Drop your quest for revenge and help the GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE (Ga.) to her home state. 

“Progress made. NEED more!” Brooks tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “STILL NEED SENATORS FOR MI NV WI! America — urge your senators to fight voter fraud & election theft!”

The Trump campaign’s legal challenges to results in those states — which have all been certified by election officials — have almost entirely failed without sufficient evidence of voter fraud.

How will Trump’s Georgia call play into the debate? 

The audio published by The Washington Post three days before Wednesday’s debate of Trump pressuring the Georgia secretary of state to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat has only made it harder for Republicans to back the effort. 

Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Tenn.), who is backing the challenge in the Senate, acknowledged during a Fox News interview that Trump’s conversation was “not a helpful call.”

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerHaley praises Trump CPAC speech after breaking with him over Capitol riot Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-Ill.) warned his GOP colleagues considering objecting to the results that “you cannot — in light of this — do so with a clean conscience.”

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Democrats, meanwhile, are sure to bring up the call during debate to defend the Electoral College results, particularly any objection to Georgia, which Biden won by 11,779 votes.

Top Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (Calif.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), have suggested Trump’s actions were potentially criminal or even impeachable.

More than 90 Democrats have signed on to a resolution introduced by Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonNAACP, Rep. Bennie Thompson sue Trump, Giuliani over Capitol riot House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Five things to watch during Electoral College battle MORE (D-Ga.) to censure Trump for trying to reverse the election results in Georgia. 

2024 politics to take center stage

Republicans considered potential presidential contenders will be at the center of Wednesday’s drama.

Hawley and Cruz are both viewed as possible candidates in 2024 as they lead the charge catering to Trump’s wishes, while on the other side are senators like Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate confirms Rouse as Biden's top economist Scarborough tears into 'Ivy League brats' Cruz, Hawley for attacking 'elites' Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination MORE (R-Ark.) and Ben SasseBen SasseJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Kinzinger: GOP 'certainly not united' on 'vision for the future' Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Neb.) who have argued against challenging the presidential election results. 

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Then there’s Trump himself, who has hinted at launching another presidential campaign after he leaves the White House on Jan. 20.

Perhaps the potential 2024 contender in the toughest position is Vice President Pence, who as president of the Senate will be tasked with overseeing Congress’s counting of the Electoral College votes. 

That ceremonial role means that Pence will have to formally announce Biden’s election victory over Trump once the count concludes.

But Trump is forcing Pence into a final loyalty test by pressuring him to challenge Biden’s win, even though the vice president doesn’t have the power to do so. 

“I hope Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceOvernight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions Haley praises Trump CPAC speech after breaking with him over Capitol riot Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote MORE comes through for us, I have to tell you,” Trump said during a rally in Georgia this week. “Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him as much.”

How does Congress handle the threats of COVID-19 and protests?

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An unexpected House floor vote on Sunday night that resulted in lawmakers of both parties crowding together in clear violation of social distancing guidelines showed that they’re still struggling with health measures nearly a year into the pandemic.

A day later, Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHere are the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege Overnight Health Care: US sets record for daily COVID-19 deaths with over 3,800 | Hospitals say vaccinations should be moving faster | Brazilian health officials say Chinese COVID vaccine 78 percent effective MORE (R-Texas) announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Washington despite a lack of symptoms. 

“We continue to urge members to come vote and leave, and not spend time on the floor if they are not needed on the floor. But that hasn't always worked as well as we’d like and we continue to admonish members to observe that,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package MORE (D-Md.) acknowledged on Tuesday.

The Capitol physician and sergeant at arms issued a memo stating that House floor access on Wednesday will be limited to members scheduled to speak and are otherwise “encouraged to remain in their offices unless called to vote.”

The sergeant at arms issued a separate memo this week advising members and staff to arrive early and use the underground tunnels to move about the Capitol complex in anticipation of protests and extensive street closures. The Capitol Police will also have additional personnel on duty to boost its security presence.

Trump has repeatedly encouraged his supporters to protest in the nation's capital on Wednesday, worrying local officials that there could be potentially violent clashes in the streets. 

The Proud Boys and members of other armed right-wing organizations also have committed to participating in demonstrations. Trump has said he will make an appearance before his supporters on Wednesday.